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REPORT OF A COMMITTEE UPON THE NEW METHOD OF INSTRUCTION
FOR DEAF-MUTES, DECEMBER, 1871. An examination took place in the School for Deaf Mutes at 11 Pemberton Square, of several pupils, deaf and dumb, who had been for three months under the instruction of Mr. A. Graham Bell. The effects produced by this instruction are in the highest degree wonderful ; indeed, almost miraculous. Several girls have been taught to utter distinctly all the sounds of the language; and one of them pronounced accurately words offered by gentlemen present, from a European and from an Oriental language, containing strange sounds not belonging to our language. Another, Miss Flagg, recited, in a sweet and natural manner, with all the inflections and modulations that a well-taught hearing girl could have given, a comic quarrel between a husband and wife, about “Is it a thrush or a starling ?”
At the end of the examination Mr. Philbrick, Superintendent of the Boston Schools, was requested by a unanimous vote to take measures to procure a hall sufficiently large to accommodate a much larger audience and to arrange for a future meeting, and another committee was chosen to report the perfect success of Mr. Bell's methods, and to invite all persons, especially those interested in the marvellous powers of the human voice, and those who wish to see for themselves the original scientific methods by which he can bestow, upon those from whom it has been withheld, the power of communicating their thoughts and feelings by the use of the human voice divine,—that every mother who has never heard her child speak may hope to hear it in a pleasant, natural voice.
Mr. Bell is the son of the gentleman in London, Professor A. Melville Bell, who first-by unwearied experiments on the organs of speech-invented what he calls “ visible speech,” an invention which promises to give complete success to the art of teaching the deaf and dumb to speak. Mr. Bell began by giving a rapid account of the invention, and exhibited on the blackboard the characters of symbols devised, which are an imitation of the parts of the organs of speech used in the utterance of the several sounds. He then stated that the object of the experiments he had been making, during the last three months, has been to test the possibility of educating the mouths and voices of deaf mutes. He introduced to us two young ladies who had, during that time, been
under his instructions : Miss Alice C. Jennings, daughter of the Rev. W. Jennings of Auburndale, and Miss Theresa Dudley, daughter of the Hon. L. J. Dudley of Northampton, and asked special attention to the latter, who is a congenital mute. She had been educated at home, at the institution at Hartford, Conn., and for four years under Miss Rogers, Principal of the Northampton Institution where she had been using her vocal organs.
In September, Superintendent Philbrick, Secretary White, Dr. Ira Allen, Chairman of the Boston School for Mutes, and several other gentlemen had examined the condition of Miss Dudley's articulation, that Miss Rogers might have full credit for the very wonderful work she had accomplished ; and that the improvement due to the principles of " visible speech ” might be justly appreciated. The defects had been shown to be in sounds of o, the consonants w, r, 1, and in all the double consonants; indistinctness, difficulty of understanding her conversation or reading. The following points were also observed :
First. That a few of the elementary sounds were defective. These were the vowels in the words pool, pull, pole, Paul and poll, and the consonants wh, w, r, 1. The vowel ee was only occasionally correct.
Second. All double consonants were defective. For instance, ts, x, gs, ch, j, &c.
Third. Rapidity of utterance had been gained at the expense of distinctness.
Fourth. It was difficult for strangers to understand her conversation, and impossible for them to follow her reading.
Fifth. Her voice was under no sort of control, and it was not pleasing in quality.
Mr. Bell says: “ Miss Dudley has been under my instruction for three months. The improvement manifest may be emphatically summed up in the one word 'power.' She has obtained power over the instrument of speech,-such power that she can produce the elementary sounds of foreign languages as well as those of English, by merely studying their symbols; that she can vary her voice in quality as well as pitch, sustain it on one level, or inflect it at will, and that she can appreciate certain musical intervals.
“I have devoted principal attention to Miss Dudley's articulation. In Miss Jennings' case I have aimed at the cultivation of the voice, and the communication of elocutionary principles. Miss
Dudley varies her voice mechanically, but Miss Jennings can now associate a feeling with every inflection. The latter also possesses the mysterious power of appreciating relative pitch. Both of these young ladies are apparently totally deaf.
“I was anxious to ascertain how far the power of recognizing musical intervals could be educated, but having more important work to do, I did not make the attempt with these pupils. Miss Fuller, however, permitted me to experiment upon the voice of one of her scholars, Miss Isabel Flagg, and I shall exhibit to you to day what I consider a scientific curiosity-perhaps of little practical value-namely, the phenomenon of a deaf person mechanically singing. Miss Flagg will afterwards recite, with elocutionary effect, a little humorous sketch, which we may call “ Thrushes vs. Starlings.
“I shall now write a few exercises on the board for Miss Dudley to read. The sounds will be of such a nature that it would be impossible for her to give them by imitation alone. I shall write German and French sounds, and some words in the Zulu language containing Hottentot clicks that would defy the imitative powers of any one here present.”
Mr. Bell then wrote on the board, in the symbols of “visible speech,” sentences in English, in German and in French, and some words in the Zulu language containing Hottentot clicks never heard in our speech; all of which Miss Dudley read slowly, but with surprising correctness, and gave the clicks in a way which nobody else present could imitate. She afterwards read from her symbols of “ visible speech ” the Lord's Prayer, slowly but very distinctly, with almost faultless articulation, and with apparently deep feeling.
Mr. Bell said that it will require long and patient practice of oral gymnastics before she is able to speak fluently; but he showed enough to prove that the end he is aiming at, perfect and pleasing articulation, is certain.
GEORGE B. EMERSON,
EXPENDITURES, 1871. The annual cost to the Commonwealth of supporting a pupil in each of the Deaf-Mute Schools is as follows :American Asylum, . . .
. . . . $175 00 Clarke Institution, .
250 00 Boston School, tuition, residents of the city, . . 100 00 Non-residents, . . . . . . . . 150 00 The amount of the appropriation for the support of
such pupils during the year 1871, was . . . $30,000 00 The sums paid on this account during the year, were, To the American Asylum, . . $17,504 02
Clarke Institution, . . 7,768 09
- - 27,555 44
Unexpended balance of appropriation, Jan. 1, 1872, . $2,444 56
AN ACT RELATING TO DEAF MUTES. Be it enacted, &c., as follows :
SECTION 1. No beneficiary of this Commonwealth in any institution or school for the education of deaf mutes shall be withdrawn therefrom except with the consent of the proper authorities of such institution or school, or of the governor of this Commonwealth. SECTION 2. This act shall take effect upon its passage.
Approved May 17, 1871.